Tag Archives: friends

Change

16 Jul

I don’t have a tangible connection to the Granite Mountain HotShot firefighters out of Prescott, Arizona. I didn’t know them. I didn’t know their families. I didn’t even have a sixth degree of separation. Even when I lived in Arizona, I wasn’t near Prescott. I resided 80 miles outside, in Tempe. When I heard about the out of control wildfire on Yarnell Hill that took their lives, I was distraught in a personal sense. A sense that alarmed me.

It’s normal to feel sad for your “home” state when a tragedy strikes, but what I felt wasn’t normal. As soon as I heard of the 19 fallen, I became obsessed with their individual stories: A stunningly handsome father of four…a newly married father-to-be…a 21-year-old rookie. Last Tuesday, I tuned into the memorial service online, where it was live-streamed to the nation. By the end of the service, I was in tears. This was slightly problematic, since I work in an open office. My tears were only protected by three cube walls.

What was wrong with me? Sure, I should feel empathy. That’s normal. What wasn’t normal was how personally affected I was. I hadn’t felt anything like this since 9/11. There had to be something more.

The answer came to me last Saturday morning. I was teaching a PR writing class at NYU and I had my students take turns reading an article about one of the fallen firefighters aloud (the lesson was on persuasive writing). By the end of it, one of my students said it was one of the best pieces of writing she’d ever read. Why was that, I asked. She replied it was because it made you think; to live every moment to the fullest. Not wanting to put words in her mouth, I asked if she meant one of the key takeaways was appreciation. She nodded emphatically.

It was at that moment my strange connection to this tragedy became clear: I was sad because of the situation, sure. More so, I was subconsciously telling myself that life is incredibly precious and I wasn’t doing enough to live it to the fullest. Truth be told, half of my tears were for me.

By nature, I’m a fearful individual. I hate change. I seek comfort. I don’t particularly take chances. I’m also the queen of “what ifs” or “maybe laters,” hoping that if it’s meant to be, it will somehow work itself out.

The problem is, my somehows always turn into somedays. My somedays turn to nevers. I’ve had chances to love Mr. Right. A few times. I’ve missed them. I’ve had chances to change my professional path. I’ve passed. I’ve had chances to stop and smell the roses. I’ve run on by.

Before you think I’m an epic failure at living, there are areas where I excel. For example, when I’m teaching, nothing else in the world matters. My heart is full, I’m working at capacity, and I’m taking in every single moment. When I’m with my friends, I’m an active listener, an avid hugger, and a “I love you” advocate. I’m also a loving sister and daughter. Family first, always.

Reading about the lives of 19 fallen firefighters gone in the blink of an eye, it made me realize I need to do better than part-time life-liver. I need to make it my full-time job. Everything else is just details.

Starting today, I’m going to say “yes” more often. I’m going to love more freely. I’m going to change it if it doesn’t make me happy. I’m going to stop giving my friends advice I don’t follow.

You should too.

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Love, Part 5 of 5: Putting It All Together

20 May

This last post on love was supposed to be dedicated to successful homosexual relationships and how they yield more long-term benefits than heterosexual ones. I researched for months, hoping to write this piece not just because I found the topic interesting, but because many of my fabulous gay friends are gorgeous, single, and looking (I know, my Friend of the Year Award is in the mail). However, as I sat down to write, I decided to shelve my notes for a bit. My last big post on love should be a culmination of what I’ve learned during the process. Part 5 – El ultimo – should bring new insight into the field of love. It should get me that column in Cosmopolitan that is –in my humble opinion -WAY overdue (Hey, Cosmo, call me maybe?).

So what, pray tell, did I learn about love?

I learned I was spending so much time writing about dating, romance, and sex, I lost sight of what love really is.

This entire series, I’ve focused on romantic love. Mainly, I’ve focused on how and why my life lacks it. What I haven’t done is celebrate the current loves of my life and why they bring me so much happiness. In short, in my constant search for Mr. Right, I’ve focused on everything that’s wrong. I failed to realize how important it is to appreciate all the non-romantic love at my fingertips.

This being said, I want to dedicate this post to all my single friends. May these words help you realize life in your 20s isn’t just about finding romantic love. It’s about celebrating this special time, a time to relish in all other types of love and discover new things about yourself you’ll love until you’re old and gray.
On a psychological level, looking at a list of things you love can help you feel less alone when everyone else seems coupled-up. It can help you make better choices when easy, not-so-great ones are within your reach. It can help you not settle. I mean, why would you? A list like this proves you deserve only the best, because you have so much love to give.

Below you’ll find a list of my current loves. What are yours?

Myself: After 29 years of trying to improve the package, I’m almost at the point where I can look in the mirror each day with confidence, vigor, and acceptance. You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. This includes friends, family, or a significant other.

Family: I’m close with my parents, brother, and my brother’s girlfriend (who is basically my sister). I also consider my best friend on the planet family (we actually refer to each other brother and sister). You can’t ask for more than unconditional love.

Roommate-Turned-Bestie: Don’t we all wish we could live with someone and never get annoyed? Or fight? Or run out of things to talk about? What about sitting in comfy silence? Agreeing on every TV show? Cooking Sunday night dinner? Regularly laughing until we cry? I’m a lucky girl.

Classrooms Filled with Graduate Students: Each week, students provide me with renewed energy, purpose, excitement, and challenge. My heart swells entering the place I call home: academia.

Old Friends: Boston, Phoenix, Chicago, Tennessee…I can’t express what it’s like to always have someone to call, no matter what time zone. My pre-New York friends continue to make such an impact on my current New York life. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

New Friends: If it’s not through school or work, I thought it was pretty much impossible to make new friends in your late 20s. I was wrong. For example, less than a year ago I met a co-worker of a roommate, and his friend. Within a few seconds of meeting them both, I was wondering where they’d been all my life. It’s amazing to continuously be meeting people who make a lasting impact.

Cooking: Feeding people is in my blood. It’s the ultimate stress relief. Baked macaroni, anyone?

Dancing: Can’t find me? I’m on the dance floor. Usually cocktail in-hand. Music, take me away.

Listening: Listening is the ultimate gift, as it’s a representation of attention and time. Listening is how I show my friends and family how much I care. Whether listening to a problem, remembering tiny details, or sharing in some excitement, there is no question to anyone in my life how much I love them. I’m forever listening.

What’s in a Name? Exploring Adult Friendships: Part 2

28 Dec

Last week, I put friends into buckets. Today, I explore what makes up that coveted top-tier: the BFFs.

As previously discussed, adult BFFs are much different from your younger years. As a kid (I’m talking ages 5-12, give or take), BFFs are your posse on the playground. These are the same people who always get half your Twinkie (awww…RIP Twinkies). These are also the people who get invited to your birthday parties, sleepovers, and playdates.

In high school, BFFs were a tad different. High school was made for groups…the jocks, geeks, goths, populars, etc. It was easy to find BFFs in high school because you rolled with those most like-minded to you. This may seem obvious, as the goal of most high schoolers is to fit in. Why wouldn’t you want to hang with those who brought out the best in you? Otherwise, fitting a square peg into a round hole is pretty awkward (I can say this from experience, as I tried to fit myself into just about every group in high school. The benefit was I got along with everyone. The detriment? at 29, I still have no idea where I fit in).

As an adult, BFFs are more complicated. The unfortunate part of this statement is that the term “BFF” is static. It’s us (as humans) that get more complicated as we get older, thus, we inadvertently complicate friendships. It’s not our fault – as we mature and our lives change, our chemical makeup of things important to us changes. Instead of caring about who we share our snacks with, we want to know whose shoulder we can cry on or who we can trust when we need to vent. Additionally – and yes, I’m calling everyone out – as we age, we get more egotistical and hedonistic. It’s more about “me” and less about “you.” If you don’t believe me, think about it this way: as a kid, how many times did you get upset when someone didn’t ask about your day? Never, right? Or, what about be annoyed when a playdate changed? That’s pretty laughable, correct? I thought so.

All this preamble leads me to a list I like to call “BFF Mandatories.” Combine these mandatories with my buckets from last week and I’m pretty positive you’ll be looking at your friends in a different light.

Empathy: Empathy is the cornerstone of adult friendships. Your 20s and 30s are filled with unexpected events and you need friends willing to put themselves in your shoes, regardless if they’ve had the same experiences.

Support: Breakups. Moves. Job changes. Deaths. Adulthood kinda sucks, doesn’t it? That being said, when things go wrong, you need dependable people to help you pick up the pieces. You need people to sit with you while you cry, listen to you while you complain, or even simply smile and nod when you decide clown college is finally for you (it could happen).

Trust: As a kid, you gossiped about everything. The game of he said/she said was amazingly fun and made you feel super cool. As an adult, gossiping makes you pretty lame and in the eyes of others, untrustworthy. I truly believe you can’t get through life without at least a handful of people you can 100 percent trust. I’m not just talking secret-keeping, either. I’m talking about life’s most rock-bottom moments they’ve seen, yet will never reveal. Instead of judging you, they coach you through it. They either help you avoid making the same mistake twice or encourage you to follow your heart. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Loyalty: This factor is the one stand-out that carries over from childhood. Remember how you use to choose sides during a playground fight? Same rules apply here: as an adult, you must choose sides. Playing neutral doesn’t fly anymore. Before you all think I sound harsh, hear me out: How often are you angry with your friends that are wishy-washy or play politician? Or, how often are you upset when your now-enemy was invited to party of a (now) mutual friend? There is comfort in knowing someone will always be on your side and as adults, usually these sides are pretty clear-cut. Your BFFs will never waiver from your side.

Flexibility: Between jobs, families, events, exercise, and other responsibilities, life is pretty unpredictable. Making plans is great because it means you have a set date on the calendar. It also means that person is important enough to you to plan something in advance. However, sometimes life get in the way of these plans and cancellations are necessary. Further – and let’s be really honest – sometimes we have 100 percent intention of being somewhere, but are so tired/sick/whatever, we won’t be our best if we go. Therefore, we opt to reschedule. Those closest to us – that know us well – understand and don’t make a huge deal out of it. In turn, we understand when they cancel on us at the last-minute. HUGE disclaimer – if this happens all the time, you may want to reexamine the friendship…once in awhile is OK, but if it’s a consistent problem, it needs to be addressed.

Respect: Your time. Your feelings. Your beliefs. Your good days. Your bad days. Your differences. Your opinions. Your advice. Your efforts. Other people in your life. Did I mention feelings? If your supposed BFFs break any of the above, you need to make a friendship 911 call. Stat.

What other qualities make up an adult BFF? Do you agree with this list? I’d love to hear from you. Comment away.

Stuck in the Middle? Exploring Adult Friendships: Part 1

16 Dec

Friends. With so many definitions, how do you really define these people in your life? Sure, friends are people you call on bad days. In fact, they are the same people you call on good days. You laugh together, cry together, and tell each other things you don’t normally tell others. This sounds pretty simple, right? Someone either is your friend, or they’re not.

Unfortunately, as adults, friendships are not so simple. Why? Because the above definition is truly made for friends under the age of 12.

In your 20s and 30s, friendships change. Sometimes they change for the better and sometimes they don’t. If a friendship falls into the latter category, it’s probably not because you got into a physical or verbal fight (both more common during our younger years). Instead, it’s usually life’s fault, throwing roadblocks, challenges, or changes into the friendship neither of you anticipated. Some of these factors include boyfriends/girlfriends, getting married, babies, job changes, moving away, etc. All of these changes sound natural and logical, so why are we consistently disappointed when friendships change? Why can’t we accept the fact people change and thus, subsequent relationships change too?

If only this rationale was so easy to accept.

A wise friend once told me adult friendships fall into three buckets. First, you have your best friends. These people fall in the top-tier of your existence. These are the people you simply can’t live without. Second, you have a middle bucket. This middle bucket includes everyday acquaintances or people who dropped from best friendship bucket. In the latter situation, you may have grown apart, but you like person and sometimes enjoy their company (the happy hour/sometimes dinner friend, if you will). Finally, there is the “non-friend” category. This category includes all “other” people, the people to whom you are – at best – consistently polite (because you aren’t mean) or simply don’t like at all.

In 29 years, I’ve never used these buckets. Honestly, I think everyone is my best friend (I recognize how unrealistic this is, trust me). In fact, I have less than a handful in the “non-friend” category (if I don’t like you, it’s probably because you/I/we were hurt in some way. Thus, you/I/we couldn’t get over it). You could say I thought I was immune to the friend buckets…until recently, as I became increasingly upset over a few (seemling) misconstrued text messages, emails, or phone/in-person conversations.

Low and behold, the problem wasn’t them – it was me…and my all-or-nothing system.

Over the past year, I’ve had many friends move away, get married, have babies, etc. It’s amazing watching all these life changes happen and truly be happy for them in the process. However, as lives change and communication becomes less frequent, some friendships I use to consider “best” don’t feel as “best” anymore. I’m sure many of you are familiar with these feelings: only one person is putting in the effort, one-sided conversation, self-absorption, consistent plan-cancelling, not listening, missing big events, hurt involved, and the list goes on. I’ve been on both sides and neither is fun. You leave these conversations feeling unsatisfied and helpless, trying to understand what went wrong and how to get things back to where they use to be.

Excuse the cheesy winter analogy for a moment, but adult friendships are like snowflakes. They are individual in nature (and very fragile) but if you find the good ones (equal and reciprocal), it’s amazing how beautiful, strong, and powerful they are. However, – without care, tending, and effort – snowflakes are many, fleeting, disheartening, and forgettable. Further, they disintegrate quickly. No matter how many more snowflakes fall, they are unique in nature. You’ll never get the same one twice.

Let us return to this mysterious middle bucket, the bucket housing the acquaintance friends. It is this bucket I have difficulty accepting. Why? Truth be told, if I adopt this bucket into my social set, my friendships are no longer black and white. Instead, these friendships fall into a place of ambiguity and I can no longer hold them to “best friendship” expectations. You guessed it – that also means I need to stop being hurt or disappointed when expectations aren’t met.

I challenge you all to take a long, hard look at your friends. Who are the people you call with exciting news? Who are the people you’d do anything for? Which friendships are equal in effort and appeal? These people are probably your best friends. If you are struggling with a particular friendship, ask yourself why. Is it because you no longer like them? Cut your losses and place them in the “non-friend” bucket. Does your friend never ask about your life? Do they never call you back and/or are always too busy? It may be time to move the friendship to the middle bucket. Are you hurt by something they said or did or, did you hurt them? Ask yourself if you both can get past it. If yes, work it out and forget about it (grudges are toxic). If not, you have two other buckets to work with.

Adult friendships are complicated. The best ones make you feel happy, complete, and supported no matter where life takes you. The others – if not properly managed – can suck the life right out of you. Figure out who you want in your life and put your efforts into these relationships. Carefully scrutinize the others and understand what benefits they bring to the table. If the negatives outweigh the benefits, you need to stop trying and let the relationship take its natural path to another bucket.

What are your thoughts on adult friendships?

Look for Part 2 next week, when I explore what elements make up a fabulous adult best friend. Happy Holidays!

The Facebook Self-Check. A Love Story.

14 Oct

Hello, my name is Kerry O’Grady…and I’m in love with Facebook.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

I was a late social media bloomer. When Facebook was hot, I had no interest. I didn’t join until 2009. Once I did, I became fascinated with friending, liking, status-updating, inviting, etc. Three and a half years later, I still can’t get enough. I track social media influencers, am an avid commenter, and am the first person to wish someone a happy birthday. What I can’t pinpoint is WHY I’m so obsessed. I’m a crazy-busy 29-year-old. Don’t I have better things to do? What is it about Facebook?

This fall, I’m guest-lecturing the graduate level social media class at NYU. A few weeks ago, I conducted a lesson on the current social media landscape and leading practices. I spent a good 15 minutes on why people use social media. Some of these reasons included meeting new people, entertainment, and coupons/promotions. If I could dissect why the universe uses social media (as a whole), then I could certainly dissect why I’m (personally) so obsessed with Facebook, right? It’s time for some soul-searching.

I spent a good two days making a list of all the reasons why I love Facebook. After looking at the list, I realized I’m pretty awesome at lying to myself. My list included “research for my students,” “capstone topics,” “monitoring for work,” “remembering birthdays,” and things of the like. Sure, these are rational reasons for my unhealthy attachment, but they aren’t true. The truth to why I’m so obsessed lies deep. It’s time for the real Facebook Kerry O’Grady to please stand up. I threw away my list and decided to get real. Here are the top five reasons why I’m so in love with Facebook:

1. They Like Me, They Really Like Me!: I was never a cheerleader. I never made out with the football captain. I wasn’t homecoming queen. I suck at all sports that require coordination. I’ve always been a huge dork. In high school, I was a floater. I got along with everyone. I had the same experience in college and in the workforce. However, the term “popular” never really suited me. On Facebook, with over 1,000 friends, I feel super popular. It’s a strange sense of awesomeness. Simply, I can’t get enough.

2. Funny Girl: For anyone who knows me, I’m pretty (love-ably) awkward. I deliver jokes a little too late. Sometimes, I say things that make no sense (but they do in my head, I swear). I also have the innate ability to interject myself into conversations at the worst times possible (for example, someone will be talking about cooking chicken and somehow, when I join in, the conversation will turn into how I was a chicken for Halloween once. Fail). The thing is, I’m a writer. By nature, my delivery on paper is much better than my delivery in person. One of my biggest joys in life is making people laugh. When I can do this through a status update or comment, it truly makes my day. On Facebook, I don’t come off awkward. I come off comically gifted. I can totally live with that.

3. Baby, You’re a Star: I’ll admit it. I love seeing myself in pictures. This is not because I love seeing how I looked or I want everyone to see who I was with. There are two reasons why I love uploading pictures to Facebook: First, I love capturing memories with my friends and sharing them with each other without the annoyance of emailing/photo developing. Secondly, (don’t judge me), I love photo-bombing. I’m sorry, this is true. I love finding myself in random pictures on Facebook and being like, “Dude, I don’t even remember taking that picture…and who WAS that guy?” It always makes for a good story.

4. From the Peanut Gallery: I love (love) giving advice. If I wasn’t a writer/marketer/teacher, I so would fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a psychologist. However, not everyone wants your comments or advice. Actually, most of the time they don’t. On Facebook, I don’t have to hold my tongue – I can comment and give advice as much as I want, without being asked. Hellooooo comment field. Dr. Kerry, in the house (woot woot).

5. Reconnecting: Because I’m a hugely relational person, people are the focus of my existence. I spend a lot of time thinking about others, especially when I haven’t spoken to them in awhile. However, my life is nuts. I don’t have much time to call or email friends. This is especially true with my out-of-town friends, as I’m forever trying to make phone dates that sometimes never come to fruition. With Facebook, I can easily let them know I’m thinking about them in less than 2.5 seconds, no matter how long it’s been. It also makes me feel better about my sporadic phone calls or hours-in-between text messages. Now, if only my parents would join Facebook…

In short, Facebook and I have a bond that can’t easily be broken. We laugh together. We cry together. We over-share together. I’ve embraced the real motives behind our relationship. I challenge you to do the same.

It’s My Party…and I’ll *Insert Verb Here* If I Want To

23 Sep

What is it about planning birthday parties in your late 20s that’s so different from your younger days? Wait, I know, it’s the anxiety.

Last night I had a birthday party to celebrate my last year of 20-something. I had a fabulous time with some amazing friends. I actually haven’t gone to sleep yet and am still tasting some ill-fated bday shots. In other words, it’s a perfect time to write about how planning is overrated.

I’m a planner by nature. Life makes me nervous if there isn’t a check-list involved. I also hate surprises, so not knowing what’s going to happen next (or who is involved) also makes me jumpy. Enter my birthday party. Three weeks ago, bar picked out and outfit options swimming in my head, I sent out a Facebook invitation to approximately 50 of my closest friends. As I anxiously awaited RSVPs, I was so excited about the “party potential,” you’d think I was 10 awaiting Jonathan Taylor Thomas’s autograph (Don’t judge me. He was a hot piece of teen butt back in the day).

The difference? I’m not ten, and none of my friends are either.

The reality is, a birthday in your late 20s needs as much planning as heating up a Pop-Tart. Unless you are making some super fancy dinner reservations, you should be spending 20 minutes max on the whole process. What have I learned this year about planning birthdays? Let me count the ways.

1. Facebook invites are stupid. About 5 percent of people respond to them and even when they do, it’s not an accurate predictor if they will actually show up.

2. Your birthday is not a national holiday, therefore, you can’t get upset when some of your bffs are a no-show at the last-minute. They love you. They wish they were there. Life got in the way. Get over it.

3. The best decorations for a house party are bought at the last-minute, and usually for less than $1 (my roommates are amazing).

4. Don’t stress about entertaining – a kick-ass music playlist and immature college drinking games do the trick, no matter how old you are.

5. Post-party, head to the nearest pizza place. Pizza is not only simply delicious, but grabbing a slice provides ample opportunity to recap the evening with friends. Not to mention, the more pizza you eat between the hours of 1 – 5 a.m., the less of a hangover you’ll have when you wake up (Well, unless you’re me. Then no amount of pizza can help you).  

6. Don’t plan your outfit in advance. The reality is, you’ll switch it 20x before you go out anyway.

7. Picking the hottest bar in town means you will be glued to your phone the entire evening. Why? Because you’ll be getting calls and text messages from friends who can’t find you, can’t get in, got kicked out, etc. So not worth it.

8. Know some of your friends are going to hook up with each other. You cannot prevent this, no matter what Battleship-like strategy you put into place.

9. Taking pictures is super fun, but saying “Oh my GOD, we SO need to get a picture of this!” over and over is lame (I would know, I do this).

10. Quit worrying if everyone will (or did have) fun. When you’re this old, the fun-factor doesn’t stem from who got the best goodie bag or who got the largest piece of cake. Instead, it comes from great conversation and making memories to last until your next birthday.